If the entire universe is examined, only two things will be found. One is Siva, and the other is Shakti i.e the static and dynamic states of One Being . No matter how much we probe into it, there are but these two in the entire universe. These forces occupy and run the entire visible nature. Our sages discovered this truth a long time ago and worshiped these forces.
Tantra regards Siva as Maha Kala, and Shakti as Maha Kali. The name of Siva in Ujjain is Mahakaleswara. Kali means time, the governor of time is Kaleswara or Mahakala. An adage says - kālādhīnaṁ jagatsarvaṁ, which means the entire world is under the control of time. What is time? From the earth’s standpoint, the onset of every sunrise and sunset results in the passing of days, months, seasons and years thereby reducing human lifespan. This is Time.
In Bhagavad Gita, God says kālōsmi lokakṣaya kṛt pravṛddhō which means “I am the time that destroys the worlds”. Unable to withstand the frightful vision of the universal form, Arjuna persuades Krishna to return to his beautiful, all-enticing form. Sages say that Kali herself is Krishna. I heard this from one of my gurus many a time. He said that Rajarajeswari and Lord Rama are the same; Kali and Krishna are the same.
However, let us dive a bit deeper. Does time imply only sunrise and sunset? If a person is kept in a room where sunlight cannot penetrate, and there is no idea of day and night, does Time stop running for him? He may not know the clock time, but his body continues to perform biochemical functions, guided by his biological clock. So, Time is inbuilt in our cells.
As long as our life force is in harmony with the Nature around us, our health remains intact. This phenomenon is called as ‘natural lifestyle’ by today’s Yoga masters, Ayurveda too mentions this principle.
Now, imagine that you have left the earth and traveled millions of miles into space. There you are surrounded by pitch darkness. You find yourself standing baseless in vacuum, surrounded by clusters of stars appearing like fireflies. Does your idea of earthly Time apply there? The time there is not related to earth. Similarly, if you go to any planet other than Earth, you will find a different Time over there. But, is there any time in vacuum? The answer is yes.
As long as there is an ‘I’ that sees, hears and feels, time exists for it. Time disappears only if ‘I’ disappears. That is why after remaining in meditation for two hours or more, it feels like only a second has passed, as if we just sat down to meditate. However, if we observe the clock, a few hours would have passed. Hence, it can be said that, the feeling of ‘I’ is the basis for functioning of time. As long as there is the feeling of ‘I’, we are bound by time, which means all of us are under the control of Mother Kali, the personification of Time. One may be a great man, a prophet, an incarnation or anyone, he cannot be beyond time. This is why it is said that however great one might be, he is but the child of Universal mother.
Sri Ramakrishna used to sing a song of Ramprasad, many a time. The song goes like this “Oh Mother! In the market of the world, you are flying kites. They are colorful and flying at various heights. One or two out of a million, cut the thread and fly away into the space, and you are clapping your hands happily”. This song mystically says the same thing that we have been discussing.
The world is the play of Universal mother. Only one or two, out of millions of living beings, are able to break the shackles of her illusory force and reach salvation. It means, Kali is bestowing upon them her other state, which is the absolute state beyond the three gunas, the state of Siva. The one who is in that unperturbed state is again Herself, so it is impossible to gain such a state without her blessing.
There is a wonderful chant in Devi Sukta - ahamēva svayamidaṁ vadāmi juṣṭaṁ, dēvēbhiruta mānuṣebhihi, yaṁkāmayē tamugraṁ kṛnōmi taṁ brahmāṇaṁ taṁ ṛṣiṁ taṁ sumēdhāṁ. Its meaning is - “I myself am saying this. Be it the demigods, humans or anyone, whomsoever I bless, I will make him elevated, bestow him with great wisdom and make him a great sage”. So, to achieve anything, the grace of Shakti is mandatory. Once, a person asked mother of Jillellamudi, “Mother! What qualifications does such and such a person have to achieve such great heights in material life?”. Mother answered - “Listen my child! I know what his qualifications are and I know what to give”.
Why does Kali appear black? Sri Ramakrishna gave a beautiful explanation. If you look at her from afar, she appears dark. Sea water too, when seen from a distance appears greenish or bluish. But, if we go closer and take the water into our hands, we can see that it has no color. In the same way, Mother Kali appears black from far away, but if we go closer, we get to know that she has no color and all colors belong to her. Not only that, one gains the true knowledge that Shakti is herself Siva. Anything infinite in Nature, like the oceans or the sky, are either blue or black. That means, these colors represent infinity and hidden energy. Modern Physics too, assumes that the ultimate energy in the universe is dark energy. This is why Tantra envisions Ma Kali as black in color.
Therefore, Tantra calls the dynamic energy which is fundamental to all the activities of the world as - Kali. Wherever there is motion, there the energy of Kali is in action. Even in the motionless rocks, the atoms are in motion. So, force of Kali is acting in them too. They too, are under the influence of time. So, both outside and inside, there is none who is beyond time and the power of Kali. Wherever creation exists, there functions the power of Kali.
Only Siva is the state which is beyond time. To put it in other words, Kali herself takes the form of Siva which is the state beyond time. In other words, One Being keeps on changing its shades, becoming static and dynamic alternately and also at the same time. This baffles our imagination. The goal of human life is to attain this state. Until this state is attained, one cannot escape the cycle of rebirth. To attain this state, one must gain the blessings of Universal Mother. That is why even incarnations like Sri Ramakrishna worshipped Shakti.
Tantra has a wonderful sloka - tvaṁ strī tvaṁ pumānaṣi tvaṁ kumārā utavā kumārī, tvaṁ jīrṇō daṇḍēnavañcasi, tvaṁ jātō bhavasi viśvatōmukhaḥ, meaning - “You are the female, and the male, you are son, as well as daughter, you are the old, walking with the support of a stick, you are the one who is reborn and spreads throughout the universe”.
All beings living in time require the blessings of Kali to survive and achieve. Even to overcome time and attain salvation, her blessings are a must. That is why we worship the Universal Mother as the sanctioner of both mundane things as well as liberation.
All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Ranganath D, which was originally posted in teluguyogi.net on July 6, 2009. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.